From Kenya’s three months of school followed by one month off to South Korea’s five and a half months of school followed by one month off, schools around the world have many different schedules. Although public schools in the U.S. don’t have as much variety in annual school schedules, the hours spent in school as well as when and for how long the breaks do differ.
Carmel High School’s school year starts in the middle of August, includes an October, winter, February and spring break and ends in the beginning of June.
Other school districts in California have it different. Los Angeles Unified has no February break, allowing three weeks off in the winter. Similarly, San Diego and Long Beach have no February break, which constitutes a longer summer.
CHS Math teacher Jody Roberts taught at a middle school in Salinas at which the winter break was three weeks long, creating no space for an October or February break.
“I like that every six to eight weeks we have a break,” Roberts explains. “I think that we as teachers need it, but I think more than that, the students really benefit from having some time off.”
English teacher Dale DePalatis taught at a high school in Alaska at which there were no February or October breaks, creating a longer summer. He shares that he likes the October break because during that time of year he feels that everyone gets tired, so it’s a perfect way to rejuvenate. On the other hand, DePalatis finds the February break unnecessary.
Even local schools such as All Saints’ Day School, Stevenson School and International School of Monterey have either additional short breaks, extended breaks or simply a longer summer compared to CHS.
“I like our schedule because it is balanced,” says sophomore Natalie Lobo, who attended Stevenson School which did not have breaks in October or February. Instead, their spring break was two weeks long.
All of these breaks cause a discrepancy of hours in a school year from one school to another. The Education Commission of the States found the average instructional hours in a school year to be 985 hours. The lowest number of hours was found in Arizona with 720 hours while the highest number was found in Michigan with 1,098 hours. California had an above average year with 1,080 hours.
The school start and finish dates start as late as after Labor Day. States with such requirements include Michigan, Minnesota, Tennessee and Virginia. Other states that have specified school start days that require schools to start no earlier than the last half of August include Arkansas, Iowa, Missouri, North Carolina, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas and West Virginia.
Overall, the U.S. has more instructional hours a year than most top performing countries on international assessments.